CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 13, 2015) – Could the next Steven Spielberg or Kathryn Bigelow already be enrolled at the University of Miami?
After viewing short clips from some of the films produced by students in the School of Communication’s Department of Cinema and Interactive Media, many of the guests at a recent UM donor recognition event probably think so, and for good reason. The films—which range from a movie about a goofy but brilliant college student who is recruited to help the CIA on a top-secret mission, to a story about a man who realizes that Cuba is no place to raise a child and concocts a plan to become a “Marielito”—took top honors at UM’s recent ’Canes Film Showcase and are now headed to Los Angeles, where they will be screened for top Hollywood producers.
Planned gifts sometimes play a major role in helping such students achieve success, and on May 13, in a ceremony UM President Donna E. Shalala described as “a celebration of the possible,” UM honored those who have made planned gifts to or included UM in their estate plans, when the University hosted its 26th annual Heritage Society Luncheon.
“People who do planned giving really are optimistic,” Shalala said at the induction ceremony, a luncheon held in the first-floor ballroom of the Newman Alumni Center. “They not only have faith in a better future but are making sure they’re a part of making [that future] happen.”
During the luncheon, attendees got a look at that future in the form of the five, young student filmmakers who were in attendance, and they learned about the School of Communication’s plans for a $2 million interactive media center that will house a student-run agency offering advertising, design, public relations, Web, and other services.
Guests also learned about the tremendous impact of UM’s Heritage Society. Since it was established in 1988, more than 1,500 philanthropists have joined the organization, making gifts that Shalala said have a transformative impact on the University.
Over the years, UM faculty and staff have been well represented among the society’s membership, and at the May 13 ceremony, two representatives from the University’s workforce—one a newcomer, the other a recent retiree—were inducted.
Rodolphe el-Khoury, who last year became dean of UM’s School of Architecture, made a planned gift that will support a much-needed design studio building at the school.
“We’re really a collection of buildings, and we think of ourselves as a campus within a campus,” said el-Khoury, noting that many of the school’s classrooms—part of a Marion Manley-designed network of structures originally built as housing for returning World War II veterans—can accommodate only small classes. “We lack the big studio space where our students can work together in large groups. And that’s what the new building will offer—a gigantic area where they can work on their projects and see and learn from what their peers are doing.”
The future Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building, so named for the president and CEO of the major South Florida builder, Coastal Construction, which pledged $3.5 million for its creation, will include presentation areas, review spaces, and a computer lab. El-Khoury believes his planned gift in support of the building speaks louder than anything else “I could do to demonstrate my commitment to our school’s cause.”
New Heritage Society inductee Norman C. Parsons Jr., the former executive director of wellness and recreation whose name became synonymous with “health and fitness” over his 43 years at the University, directed his planned gift to a UM athletics program he hopes will be revived one day. “The U needs a men’s golf team, and I pray it happens soon,” said Parsons, who coached the sport to national prominence in the 1980s before it was dropped in 1993.
Parsons, who could not attend the ceremony, said he hopes “many others will join me in this most important endeavor.”
It is an endeavor that lays a “foundation for the future,” said Shalala. Some planned gifts have been pledged so long ago that sometimes they fall off the radar, eventually benefiting the University when least expected. “Every once in a while, a gift pops up that we actually didn’t know about, from a person who years ago had a wonderful experience at the University—either as a student or parent, or they received care at our medical center—and never forgot the wonderful contribution we made,” said Shalala. “Some of our largest gifts have come from people who have put us in their estate plans.”
She noted that during the Momentum2 campaign, UM focused more attention on this area of philanthropy, securing more than $270 million in planned giving. “For a young university, that’s a tremendous achievement that will benefit future generations,” said Shalala.
Sergio M. Gonzalez, senior vice president for University Advancement and External Affairs, echoed Shalala’s remarks, noting that the institution has exceeded its goal for endowment giving and that such giving helps fund programs in perpetuity that range from professorships to student scholarships.
Said Gonzalez, “Planned giving touches lives.”